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Investigations

Investigations

We actively investigate allegations of breaches of the Renewable Energy (Electricity Act) 2000. In 2015, we received 134 matters related to possible breaches. We commenced 42 investigations, with 25 cases open as at 31 December 2015.

The majority of matters requiring further attention in 2015 related to the improper creation of certificates for solar panel installations, including providing false details, forging signatures and not installing systems.

In 2015 we closed 133 existing matters relating to the Act, including 41 investigations. These investigations resulted in:

  • client education
  • rectification of installations
  • enforceable undertakings—two were agreed and two were closed in 2015 with a total of four remaining open as at 31 December 2015
  • referrals to state police
  • letters of advice/warning
  • surrender of improperly created certificates—a total of 5 125 small-scale technology certificates were surrendered as a result of investigations, and
  • suspended accounts—two REC Registry accounts were permanently suspended.

Photo acknowledgement: Clean Energy Council, small-scale solar installation 

Photo acknowledgement: Clean Energy Council, small-scale solar installation

Our Compliance, Education and Enforcement Policy aims to achieve voluntary compliance. However, civil and criminal prosecutions are pursued where appropriate. During 2015 we referred one investigation to the Australian Federal Police for consideration and one investigation to the NSW Police Force.

No cases were referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) in 2015.

Two investigations referred to the CDPP in 2014 are still open:

  • Mr Neville Voss has pleaded guilty to a number of charges under state and Commonwealth legislation, with sentencing in the Queensland District Court due in April 2016.
  • In the other matter, the CDPP has indicated it is likely to issue a Court Attendance Notice in 2016 against a New South Wales individual involved in the improper creation of certificates.
Feature header image - photo of a Terracotta rooftop covered in solar panels. 

Case Study

Non-genuine panels

One of our investigations resulted in the replacement of non-genuine solar panels.

After receiving a report from a Clean Energy Council accredited installer in May 2014 we investigated a Queensland-based solar system retailer that had gone into liquidation. The retailer is alleged to have sourced and supplied non-genuine (non-approved) solar panels, mislabelled them as approved Tier 1 solar panels, and installed them on 182 premises in New South Wales and Queensland.

Through the retailer, homeowners assigned the right to create certificates for their installations to Greenbank Environmental Pty Ltd. Greenbank—a registered agent trading small-scale technology certificates—paid the retailer around $500 000 for the right to the certificates. Greenbank then created approximately 14 000 small-scale technology certificates based on the false compliance information provided by the retailer.

Due to the nature of the retailer's actions, we released information to the New South Wales and Queensland Consumer Affairs and Electrical Safety authorities. We also inspected a sample of suspect installations to verify the panels and any issues concerning safety or non-compliance with installation standards and relevant laws.

We recognised the impact on the solar marketplace, and particularly on the system owners, of what appeared to be a deliberate act by the retailer to mislead system owners and Greenbank about the authenticity of the panels. We worked cooperatively with Greenbank and the solar panel manufacturer throughout the investigation to rectify the situation.

In November 2015, Greenbank entered into an enforceable undertaking with us, recognising that it had improperly created the certificates. Greenbank elected to replace the non-genuine panels with genuine panels, rather than surrender the certificates—agreeing to replace the panels within six months, or surrender equivalent certificates if the panels are not replaced within 12 months.

We are continuing our investigation into the operations and alleged fraudulent activities of the retailer. This case demonstrates that we consider claims of fraud seriously and take the actions necessary to ensure the integrity of the market.

Photo acknowledgement: Clean Energy Regulator, small-scale solar installation

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